SPCS Physics: Summer Institute

References, Problems, and Solutions

Special and General Relativity

June 22 - July 9, 2015
  • Instructor: Gary Oas
  • Counselors:
  • Elizabeth Culbertson
  • Matt Hodel
  • Alex Kinsella
  • Classroom is in 200-305 (upstairs, History corner)
    Residence is Theta Delta
    Questions?: email Gary.


    July 4, 2015:
    I have limited access to this website on the weekend and will post week 2's materials on Monday.

    Old news from previous camps Also, Lingering questions, and responses, from students in various courses

    Lecture Sets

    Week 1: Special relativity, kinematics and dynamics
    Week 2: Special relativity dynamics, towards GR
    Week 3: GR, black holes etc.

    Problem Sets and Solutions

    Week 1
    Week 2
    Week 3

    Alternate online texts (2014)

    To make up for the lack of text, I have posted here various online texts on relativity. I will post the ones relevant for this level first.
  • Special Relativity, D. Hogg. This is pretty close to the level of Spacetime Physics and this course.
  • Special Relativity, V. Lindberg. This is pretty close and seems to rip off Taylor and Wheeler (they're probably not happy).
  • Special Relativity, P. Harris. Another in the same vein. This one may be a little more readable. Ok, now for some that are a little more formal.
  • Special Relativity, P. Harris.
  • Chapter 2 of Thorne's Caltech notes (SR). I highly recommend getting this whole, extensive book.
  • Chapter 24 of Thorne's Caltech notes (GR).
  • Chapter 25 of Thorne's Caltech notes (Fundamentals of GR).

    Other stuff

    There are some other problems that may be optional or as a contest. I will post these when they are done.

    Blog roll

    Here are some blogs pertaining to physics. Sean Carroll's website (CalTech). Preposterous Universe, and the blog
    Sabine Hossenfelder's blog, Backreaction. Often some personal stuff (and singing videos that I dare not click on), but other times there are excellent posts.
    Quantum Frontiers The blog of Caltech's Inst. for Quantum Information and Matter. Some very good posts (though often quite advanced).
    ...more to come...

    Further Explorations

    Since you received a thorough introduction to relativity all I can suggest along these lines is to explore the two texts we used. The second book "Exploring Black Holes" covers many advanced topics on black holes that you only get with a full on GR class. It does use calculus though.

    I would say if you want to continue on from this course, there are three books to consider.
  • "Incomprehensible" which you have. This a nice follow on and will get you into differential geometry a bit.
  • Ta-Pei Cheng "Relativity, Cosmology" Cambridge press. I really like this book and is a natural follow up.
  • T. Moore "A General Relativity Handbook." Good if you want to solve more problems to develop your skills.

    Full on relativity If you want to go into relativity with more rigor, get one of the texts listed below. I would probably suggest the Rindler one to go through next. It is a full on text but is more approachable than the higher level ones.

    Want to be a Quantum Mechanic? Well, apply for next year's Summer Institute in QM (shameless plug). Best to apply once you have taken calculus. If that is too far off, pick up the "Strange World of QM" mentioned below to get you going. The other reference "Quantum Challenge" is excellent, but often assumes familiarity with QM.

    Library of Related Articles

    Here is a list of articles in pdf form which are related to GR and black holes. Many talk about quantum aspects of black holes.
    General Relativity
  • The Right Hand Side of Einstein's Equation My notes on the Stress-Energy tensor T^mn. This is based almost directly on the following paper.
  • The Meaning of Einstein's Equation by John Baez, UC Riverside. (Limited copies handed out in class).
  • Power point slides on the GPS system and GR corrections.
  • A nice site with many animations covering much of relativity
  • Gravitational Lensing Images
  • 57 images of gravitionally lensed objects
  • Black Holes, Black Hole Thermodynamics, and Quantum effects
  • Black Hole InformationScientific American article written by Leonard Susskind of Stanford.
  • Quick note on Black Hole Thermodynamics by Leonard Susskind.
  • Black Hole Thermodynamics A review of the thermodynamics of black holes. Somewhat advanced at times.
  • String Theory, Quantum gravity, and all that
  • A brief article written by one of the creators of string theory. Rather up-to-date (April 2004).
  • Cosmology related
  • Notes from E. Taylor's class on Cosmology , (author of Spacetime Physics). Requires calculus
  • Figures for notes from E. Taylor's
  • The Theory of Inflation By Andreas Albrecht. Starts simple but then gets advanced.
  • The Theory of Inflation Power Point Screens By Alan Guth, one of the founders of the theory. Easy to follow
  • Supernovae, Dark Energy, and the Accelerating Universe Article from Physics Today.
  • A nice talk on QG and the Anthropic Principle by Lenny Susskind. See also other discussions on this site: A nice debate between two prominent physicists (Susskind and Smolin),

  • Various Books on various topics
    [Gary's rankings, 0 through 5 complex conjugations (*)].

    I know I am neglecting many books, I am just pulling them off my shelf and listing them.
    Special and General Relativity
    Easy-reading: Introductory texts: None of this simple stuff, bring it all on!: Why don't I just go to the source and read Einstein's works?:
    I would probably recommend not starting with Einstein's works for general audiences. Although carefully written and they do not take short cuts like others, the method is rather old fashioned. I would suggest starting with a good modern introductory text (like Spacetime Physics, Mermin, or Wald (ok that's a bit much) and only after developing a sound base in the modern perspective go back and read Einstein's works. They are more useful to those who want to understand the history and philosophical underpinnings of relativity.

    In reading his journal articles not much is to be gained in learning relativity. Many of the discussions, then thought to be difficult, are found rather simply in a modern view. Also, the whole theory had not been developed, there were several gaps that remained to be filled in and some derivations incorrect. Again, I would only suggest reading them well after you have a thorough grounding (except maybe "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies").
    Quantum Mechanics
    I will list just a few related to QM since there seemed to be some interest. First off, I would highly recommend reading the following two books which are used for the SI in QM. Oh there are many more.

    Student Links to images

    I've added some old pictures from previous camps for your amusement (many are from 2007). You should recognize the boards. It seems as I was much better with my layout! (I blame the chalk and the board, it's not me!) Some random pix (how old am I? Many buildings we met in no longer exist): Secret magnetic wall pictures..shhh. don't tell anyone. I am trying to remember the years.. I'll keep digging around.
    Singapore 2005 Pictures
  • Whole class
  • (I hope to soon put up some video).
    Singapore Dec 2004 Pictures
    Some pix of you guys,
  • Afternoon shot
  • Afternoon shot
  • Afternoon shot
  • Afternoon shot
  • Afternoon shot
  • Afternoon shot
  • Afternoon shot
  • Afternoon shot
  • Class shot
  • Class pix
  • Class pix
  • Class pix, large.

    SI July 2004
    Ed's site for pix, EPGY, SI 2004 See July 24, 2004.